I absolutely love writing blogs with a song title. Stylistics 1972, in a time of great turmoil wrote and sang this song about how different kinds of people can influence our world. What I enjoy about people is that we may believe some of the same things, but we are all essentially very different and interesting.
"But that's what makes the world go round, the ups and downs, the carousel...."
Who proves that this song has much merit is Jesus and his interaction with all sorts of people. He had a lot of different kinds of folks riding on his carousel. Look at the diversity of the apostles, and the nature of the people he touched like the Samaritan woman, the lame, the blind, the sinners and tax collectors. What was his point?
"People make the world go round...."
Surely God is in control but we push the buttons to start the carousel turning, we are the ones to carry out his plan, and in that plan are many different people, not just the ones we feel comfortable with.
As we wind down 2015 and another year of the ATB ministry, we can see some major dysfunction going on in the lives of our newcomers as well as recurring issues with some vets. Yet, the Lord is patient with us all and wants us to be the same, realizing that we need each other and some folks just need us a little more than others.
What we all need to keep in mind is how much grace God is willing to extend to us. How far and how wide is his love and forgiveness? And those who need that extended grace, myself included, need to remember to give freely back what we have been freely given, That is part of our growth, that is part of us becoming his ambassadors.
Yes indeed, people make the world go round, and it takes a whole lot of us to keep this world's carousel turning in the right direction. Through the ups and downs, let's never stop singing that tune.
I can hear you, can you hear me?
When we look at life and see the reality of how we have lived, some of us may look back and not be so proud of what we have done. Regardless of whether there was addiction or other circumstances involved, our poor choices caused a lot of pain and chaos in the lives of those who knew us.
Sometimes I admit I just cringe at how stupidly I acted in my younger days, even though I seemed to always find a convenient excuse for my actions. Once my life turned the corner into the direction of our Lord, my behavior changed but sometimes the old nature took over. It has been a realization that has been painful to face, knowing that the debris of my past left scars on those I loved.
But by constantly seeking the will of God, seeking forgiveness and understanding grace, my knowledge of what Thanksgiving means, both the day and the word has been transformational. Just being on this planet earth is a blessing now, and there is so much to be thankful for, most importantly that the blood of Jesus has covered my sins.
Though this has been a difficult year, there is so much to be thankful for. The ATB ministry has not missed a beat and a mighty group of leaders has now emerged to carry it on. My family has become much closer, even through tragedy, and we remain committed to loving each other better than we have before. My job, and the people I work with are awesome and this new area is a wonderful place to live in. I have new grandchildren and new friends.
But probably the most thankful I am is toward the people and mentors who have given me the spiritual training, love and encouragement which has led me to a greater faith. When you are tested under fire, you find out where you stand and you look back and see so much compassion and genuine concern for your soul that you know God has sent those folks to help put you on the right path.
Yes, thank you Jesus for so many blessings, and at this Thanksgiving I can assure you I will be thankful for you all!
I remember distinctly singing this hymn for the first time as tears poured down from my drunken hung over eyes. My life flashed before me and though many great things had happened, I pretty much screwed them all up through my addiction. At that moment when I decided to make a change, give my heart and soul to Jesus, I was broken and I surrendered to the man who hung on that old rugged cross.
In the years that have passed since that decision there have been many unexpected surprises, twists and turns, but through it all my faith has always been centered on him and not the folks around me. After being through a physical war that molded many of my actions, the spiritual war seemed so much easier because someone had already paid a price for my transgressions.
As I traveled on I-10 in Alabama last week I passed several crosses on the side of the road representing the memory of lost loved ones, and in one area there were two and I paused for a reflection on how much that loss meant to their families. I now understand. And I now understand how much pain was in the air when a young 33 year old carpenter was sent to a death that was necessary for me to gain redemption.
This morning, traveling to church with my grandson Logan, we passed another cross, this one had RIP Paul Yankowski carved on it at the intersection of Five Forks Trickum and Killian Hill Road. The flowers and plants still there it glistened in the sun in memory of my fallen son.
I spoke with Logan about it then under my breath I again sang that song, tears pouring down my now sober face, and it all came together for me. Without the redemption at that old rugged cross there would never have been a Paul, there would never have been another chance to get fatherhood right.
Now he has a cross to remind us of him, and we have a cross to bear in his absence that is one of disbelief, sorrow and loss. But as the words began to come back to me, I thought of what Paul wrote in his Reinforcer Survey at the age of 5. "I like to read books about Mickey Mouse and Bible verses."
And the words I remembered were loud and clear....."and I'll cling to that old rugged cross and exchange it one day for a crown".
Last night I read the same book to Logan and Athina (Briana listened too) that was one of the favorites of Paul and Briana, "Mickey Mouse and the Woodcutter". Afterwards we had a prayer, and today Logan asked me to take him with me to church.
It's not how much time we have someone with us that counts, it's how you spend the time with them that matters. And it doesn't hurt to keep talking and singing about that old rugged cross even if we don't think they are listening!
If you haven't seen the Home Alone series of movies you have missed some great laughter. Of course, the parents leave one of their sons behind by accident when they go on vacation, and it is up to him to make the best of it while dealing with some intruders. Take a look, you'll love it.
The last 45 days I have done a reverse of that movie, I have left most of my Church family home alone while I tried to cope with my son's death and with helping the family to heal and continuing to work in Alabama. As I have thought about not seeing so many folks I love and hold dear, it was as if I unintentionally created a vacuum around us until the time was right for me to come home.
This Sunday will be the first time since Paul's passing to see my church family, and though I am going home physically to be with them, I have never felt alone because their calls, emails, letters and Facebook comments have been overwhelming. You don't always have to be with someone you love to feel their constant presence and love in your heart.
So too, do we often struggle that Jesus is not physically with us, but we have His Holy Spirit. Unseen but felt, it remains a constant reminder that we are loved and cared for though we are not face to face with the Lord. Sometimes we isolate or do not feel that presence,or keep waiting for an answer to prayer, but we take heart in knowing he is always there, he says so in so many biblical verses.
Reading about Abraham and Sarah for the past 6 months, I have a feel for leaving home, being isolated from your original family, trying but not so successfully to wait for an answer from God, and how losing loved ones can impact your outlook on life. We can honestly feel at home, at peace with the Lord, but feel alone.
The key is to realize that though we may have moments of down time, moments of loneliness or fatigue which leads us to try to fix that feeling (a la rushing the promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah), we must find a way to understand we are never, ever alone though we may not be directly spoken to.
At every moment God is with us, and in this earthly life, his people are with us, no matter where we are, what we are going through or how hurting we are.
I have learned this more lately than I ever understood before. Now it is time to go home and feel that love in person!
I woke up this morning with an odd request on my mind. I thought, today God, let me not be Glenn but be just your son instead. Sometimes it just wears you out being you, and there is a longing for peace, clarity and complete trust that God is in charge, and we no longer have to be. Even after years of a chance to mature in our relationship with the Lord, we tend to try to control too much of what we are not in control of.
So, just for today (but I hope more often) I am switching lanes. I am getting out of the passing lane and staying in the lane where slower traffic is just so I am paying attention to His GPS and not mine.
We can get here in the wrong lane pretty easy. Life circumstances, especially the more difficult times tend to make us take a tighter control of the steering wheel. Though we hope to rely on God, hope is not a strategy, letting go of the wheel is. When we start to lose things and people, we think that if we just paid more attention, if we just did this or that, then things might be different, but the truth is we will never totally understand this life or the total nature of how God works.
So we need to spend less time trying to justify or figuring it all out and more time watching for the traffic signs of life's direction. If we pay attention there is a good chance we won't have to switch lanes so often.
But we know one certain fact, God is in the right lane, and that is the one we want to be driving in.
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.